The design of our garden — especially the area behind the house — was heavily influenced by Japanese aesthetics. We loosely incorporated three styles of Japanese gardens into our design: Pond, Stroll and Tea Gardens. If you look at the map you can see the pond is the centerpiece of the garden and is of a size and location that we can see it from inside at all seasons. There are multiple paths that let us stroll around the pond to enjoy different views and Mark designed and build a stucco Tea House at the top of the slope next to the Header Pool.
Other than digging and shaping the pond and setting the largest stones, Mark did all the construction himself.
The view from the deck not long after we moved into the house in the autumn of 1994. It was the perfect blank canvas.
The same view in the Spring of 2012.
Looking towards the bright yellow house you can see two more of the major selling points: access at ground level and a window wall to let us enjoy the garden from indoors during the winter.
As I mentioned last week, we created many small, distinct gardens that all link together via a series of path into a unified whole; what we refer to as "the big idea." The TSUKUBAI GARDEN is right off the deck and is a Mid-westernized version of a traditional feature seen at the entrance to Tea Gardens. We often made mock-ups of features, including cardboard "rocks," to help us visualize the final product and give us a sense of the proper scale and proportion.
Here you see the path coming around from the West Gate to the Tsukubai with assorted stepping stones sitting where they will ultimately be set in place. Early plantings are in the ground and the water feature is operative. We replaced a traditional stone bowl with a ceramic pot made by a local artist and a metal pipe replaces the traditional bamboo flue.
A few years later the plants almost hide this feature and the house has been painted. The old pipe has been replaced with antique copper.
The pond took an entire summer to create. Mark worked on his own or with a young landscape architect who also drove the bobcat and hired the backhoe driver. The top of the stone retaining wall is ground level. The back yard strongly sloped upward which was helpful in creating a natural looking pond. We used some of the dirt that came out of the hole to create small hills. You can see the "shelves" that circle the pond which are used to hold the pots of water lilies under water.
The hills have sod to prevent erosion as it was an amazingly wet summer. The bottom of the pond is dirt with no rocks or rough spots, topped with sand and a layer of old carpet. The final layer is rubber. Note the sea of mud that goes across the width of the garden and stretches from the pond to the deck. It stayed that way for at least a few years.
The rubber liner is in place and large stones are being set inside the pond. Mark and our landscaper, Jon Adams-Kollitz, are standing on carpet to protect the liner as they wait for the rock to be swung into position. It is glued to a sheet of styrofoam with a cement collar and has not shifted in 20 years.
The gives you an aerial view from the roof of the house. I suggested we add a grass square to repeat the geometry of the deck but give it a twist as though it was under the deck and sticking out at the edges. We also added bluestone pavers to contrast with all the natural stepping stone. The triangle off the deck eventually was planted with a Ginkgo tree that my co-workers gave me when my Dad died. There are stone steps going up the hill to right where the Tea House will eventually be built.
If you look at the picture above you can see the long stone path and the front edge of the deck to orient yourself to the views below. The Tsukubai is off to the left and mostly hidden by foliage.
We decided we should have another gravel garden to relate to the Yin Yang garden out front and filled in this area. The view below is in the opposite direction from the image above with the Tsukubai on the right. The Spirea hedge never thrived and was replaced with a bamboo fence.
There's a pine needle path along the fence that goes behind the Tea House and meanders through the Sacred Grove at the top of the hill out of view to the left. You can also use the stone steps to get up to the Tea House, then turn left and cross the stream via stepping stones.
To the east of the pond we had a moss garden until we decided it required too much maintenance. We lost one of these apple trees and the remaining one is not in good shape so we are re-thinking this area in case we lose this tree. We started with a casual mulch path, then added a brick edge and then updated it again with gravel and a stone edge.
The front apple tree came down in 2015 but the area looks fairly similar today. The dry steam and bridge are between this mossy area and the deck. Note the path splits: go left around the the Turtle Mound and Katie's Crescent or go right to go behind the low hedge that edges the the Buddha Mound and along the Back Border where the gray gravel path continues over to the Sacred Grove.
When the neighbors whose yard adjoins ours announced they were going to have a baby, we announced that we were going to have a fence. Mark spent three years building this cedar fence. The support posts are pressure treated lumber and are sunk four feet deep to withstand frost heave. He created a design module so he could add more or fewer modules depending where the support posts were placed. He assumed he would hit rocks or tree roots which would force him to move the post and this was how he dealt with that problem while giving the fence a unified look.
The fence has a dramatic gate and the entire creation is topped with a cedar shake roof. The fence was designed to look the same from both sides. We're on our third set of neighbors since Mark built the fence and I think the presence of the gate has always made for good relations with each new family.
You can see from this image that we spent a lot of time thinking about hardscaping and evergreens, features that would make the garden interesting even in winter. The fence has turned out to be one of the best winter features of the garden.
If you look at the aerial photo you can see the stone steps that lead to the Hedder Pool and the Tea House. Turn left at the top of the steps as you cross the stream and you will see the Weeping Purple Beech that is the focal point above the yew curve.
As you cross the stream look right and you see The Sacred Grove.
I named this area The Sacred Grove right after we moved in. There was a huge old Crabapple tree, three Austrian pines, a big Juniper and some scrubby shrubs. It was woodsy and mysterious, the perfect spot for the Delphic Oracle to appear with a pronouncement. Alas, we've lost most of those trees including a couple of special ones that we planted over the years.
They turned my shady Grove into a much sunnier area and one that does not look that mysterious in early Spring. The Hedder Pool is between the big rocks and the Tea House.
Looking the other direction
The Sacred Grove in 2015.
We decided to create a lower maintenance area along the fence by planting Yew and Boxwood. We used cardboard circles to estimate mature size and how many shrubs we'd need to buy. The hose is marking the future path.
The view today with the Buddha Mound on the left. The arching tree trunks belong to an old Lilac. The tree in the back center is a Carolina Silverbell and marks the beginning of Katie's Crescent.
The Crescent was formed when we piled up all the grass that was removed to build the pond. Eventually it broke down into a beautiful planting bed which is home to Geranium 'Biokovo' and a weeping Katsura that we've trained to create a leafy tunnel.
We're having a computer problem that is keeping me from accessing our photo archive. So I don't have any photos to show the story of the Tea House. This link gives you a timeline and further links to construction details.
. . .
Thanks to all of you who commented on the first post about creating the front and side gardens, and to Loree at Danger Garden for getting me enthused enough to find all these images and put this together.
. . .
If you are a junkie for design construction details and step-by-step photos, you can follow the entire process under My Garden Odyssey in the categories list. As you know, posts are chronological so the last post is at the top of the list. The very first post on this topic ran on Nov. 26, 2008. Those little "You Might Like . . ." boxes that appear below link to related posts which is another way to follow this story if you start with the first post.